According to the most recent polling data from Gallup, fewer than half of U.S. adults say that they have a will. As you might expect, age is a major factor in whether one is likely to have made a will. Survey participants who were over 65 were far more likely to have a will than young and middle-aged adults.
Most people believe that they won’t need a will until around the time they reach retirement age. But this belief is based on an assumption of longevity. In reality, none of us knows what the future holds or how long we have left. And by indefinitely delaying estate planning, those who die prematurely may be leaving a complicated legal mess for their loved ones.
Actress’s intestate death leads to public estate disputes
In August, many were shocked to learn about the death of actress Anne Heche, who died after a horrific and fiery car accident. She was only 53. She left behind two sons, ages 20 and 13, who are half-brothers because they each have different fathers. She died without a will (known as dying intestate), and her two sons are likely her only heirs.
Recently, her older son petitioned a court to serve as administrator of her estate, and also sought to have someone appointed to represent his younger brother’s interests in legal matters related to the estate. The younger son’s father has contested the proposed appointment of the elder son, producing an email from 2011 in which Ms. Heche allegedly appointed him (her partner at the time) as estate administrator. He also alleges that Ms. Heche was estranged from her elder son at the time she died, an assertion which her son denies.
As is the case with many celebrity estate disputes, this is likely to become even messier and more acrimonious as it develops, adding grief and stress to an already heartbreaking situation.
Protect those you love by planning your estate
You may not have the wealth or public profile of a celebrity, but you likely have assets you want to protect and loved ones you want to provide for when you are no longer around. By investing some time and money into planning your estate, you can feel a little more secure about the future, regardless of what it has in store.